Changes in Latitudes

January, 2002

With reports this month from Michaelanne on clearance confusion in Barra de Navidad; from Uhuru on crisscrossing the Sea of Cortez; from Joliga II on not falling overboard and Australia; from Velella on the passage from Tonga to New Zealand; from Nanamuk on finishing a seven-year circumnavigation with two kids; from Spindrift on Altata, a place in Mexico you've never heard of; from Aurora on cruiser racing in Tonga; from Hasty Heart on memories of Mexico; and more Cruise Notes than ever before.

Michaelanne - Whitby 42
Anne and Mike Kelty
Barra De Navidad, Mexico

Yesterday, December 14, three boats came into the lagoon at Barra de Navidad. Two of them, Saucy Lady and Paraquina, were planning only to stay overnight before moving on. They hoped to avoid the expensive and time-consuming check-in/check-out process - which would have required that they go ashore to the Port Captain's office, present papers, make a round-trip to Melaque to pay the total fee at Banamex, return to the Port Captain in Barra de Navidad, get stamped, and get on with their trip. The third boat, P.J., intended to stay awhile.

The Port Captain in Barra de Navidad is onto the bit that some cruisers are trying to slip in and out of the lagoon without his notice. But they have a boat, manned with two English-speaking men in khakis, that they are using to check out all - and we mean all - boats that enter Barra de Navidad.

P.J. was the first of the three boats to dock, and the patrol guys approached the skipper there to tell him that he had to check in. He said that he intended to do so, but could he wait until the next day because there wasn't enough time left in the day to complete the process. "No problema," they told him.

About an hour later, Saucy Lady and Paraquina came into Barra. When approached by the officials, the skipper of Paraquina explained that he thought boats were allowed 24 hours in a port without having to check in. The Port Captain's men said that was not their understanding of the law. When the skippers of Paraquina and Saucy Lady asked if they could just stay long enough to get some groceries - a matter of a couple of hours - and leave, they were told this would not be acceptable. So about an hour after they arrived, they upped anchor and left.

It just so happened that it was dead low tide on a new moon day, and the wind was blowing 25 knots out of the southwest. Since we had hoped to buddyboat south with Paraquina and Saucy Lady, we quickly made ready to follow them out of the lagoon. Mike had checked us out that morning, so we were free to go. Naturally we bumped the bottom as we went out of the channel, but we got out. While leaving the channel, we noted the Port Captain's boat stationed near the entrance, making certain that Paraquina and Saucy Lady kept going. It reminded me of my grandfather's old farewell: "Don't let the screendoor slam you in the fanny as you leave."

As it was, we had a very pleasant - if somewhat rolly - trip down to Ensenada Carrizal, just above Bahia Santiago on the way to Manzanillo. Having sailed under jib alone, we arrived just as night fell. It's a lovely anchorage with plenty of room for four or five boats in 35 to 45 feet of water. It's well protected from the west to northeast winds and waves.

We just wanted to share our Barra experience with everyone in case, well, you know. There doesn't seem to be anyone checking out Tenacatita at this point. We never saw anyone the four days we were there, and nobody has reported anyone.

- anne & michael 12/15/01

Anne & Michael - The checking in situation in Mexico is a giant mess that needs to be remedied. It's not good for Mexico, which is getting a black eye from it, and it's certainly not good for cruisers. As such, we hope everybody checks out our petition in this month's Sightings.

By the way, it's not going to be quite as easy for cruising boats to 'forget' to check in and get away with it. We're told the Mexican government has recently purchased over 100 high-speed, outboard-driven, Donzi powerboats to run drug interdiction missions. In fact, we saw one on patrol in early December by Punta Mita. They need these high-speed boats because drugs are coming ashore in Mexico from motherships offshore. In fact, 150 bales of pot recently washed ashore just north of Puerto Vallarta. The Mexican government is patrolling their Pacific Coast like never before, and while not specifically looking for cruising boats that haven't checked in, everyone should presume they are being watched.

Uhuru - Vanguard 32
Mike 'Lonely Guy' Miller
Crossing The Sea

I just wanted to let you know that I made it from San Carlos to Mazatlan in almost record time - less than a week. Keep in mind that the way I did it involved crossing the Sea of Cortez twice for a total of 425 miles, and stopping in Agua Verde for a couple of days. My 'speed run' didn't come without some hairy moments, trepidations and anxieties. I think singlehanding for days on end just gets to be too much at times, and this was one of those times. On the other hand, it was also the best sailing I've done since I got to Mexico.

My adventure began by leaving San Carlos and crossing the Sea of Cortez to Bahia Agua Verde on the Baja side, a distance of 145 miles. There wasn't a soul in sight, but there were meteor showers all night. I had plenty of wind, which allowed me to complete the crossing in about 30 hours.

Two days later, as I rested in the company of other cruisers in the anchorage, I thought the weather window was going to be good for the 290-mile trip from Agua Verde back across the Sea to Mazatlan. I had never planned on sailing nearly four days alone, but I really wanted to get south, and I sort of wanted to test myself, too. Two other boats left with me. The faster one walked away - although I would see them again the next day. The other boat was with me for the first day.

As you can see from one of the photos, my trip started out with a spectacular sunrise as Alouette de Mer left the anchorage. We sailed together that first day in decent but not excellent conditions. During that time, Alouette took some great shots of my boat.

I was hoping that I wasn't going to have to motor, as I didn't have enough fuel to get to the other side. I need not have worried, as on the second day I once again got caught in heavy north winds, and a newly predicted Norther was headed down the Sea. If things got really ugly, I was going to be a sitting duck. Fortunately, they didn't get too bad, although Uhuru hit speeds designer Phil Rhodes probably thought weren't possible while carrying all the junk I had aboard. Nonetheless, the conditions were very lumpy and exciting. The folks on Alouette were nice enough to heave to and wait for me to catch up. By now it was pretty rough and I still hadn't gotten much sleep or had much to eat.

On the third night, Alouette stood by and monitored the radar, allowing me to catch two hours of rest. Out on the open ocean you can sleep with more confidence than while in the Sea of Cortez, where huge ferries, ships and shrimp boats seem to appear out of nowhere. For example, at 0300, the biggest Mexican Navy ship I've ever seen started circling Uhuru at speeds that could have easily wiped out my boat. They didn't contact me in any way, and they wouldn't answer my calls on VHF. Then they just took off.

By now, Alouette wanted me to catch up to them so we could make the final day's run into Mazatlan in company. Well, I fired up the engine to motor up to their position. But that didn't last long, as the seas had stirred up all the gunk in my fuel tanks, which eventually fouled all my fuel filters. Now the fun really began! In high winds and rough seas, I had to empty out everything from my storage area to get at the filters. Then I had to replace the ones on the engine, then bleed the engine to restart it. All this after three days of very little food, virtually no sleep, and having to steer by hand much of the time. Wow, what fun cruising can be! And you thought I spent everyday sipping drinks with umbrellas in them while chatting up the cute little Mexican chicas.

After hours of fiddling with the filters and engines, I sat hove-to with Alouette just 29 miles off the Mazatlan coast. Then yesterday at 0700, I pulled into a slip at El Cid Marina to rest . . . and later reprovision, email, and enjoy a couple of nights on the town. Finally, I was able to smile with friends once again.

Cruising is funny. When the shit is really hitting the fan, I think I must be out of my mind to try things such as this. But once I get to a safe haven or another nice anchorage with supportive cruisers, I remember how much fun it can be. I will now continue 500 more miles down the line to get to Z-town, which means my Sea of Cortez crossings are behind me. I can now look forward to excellent anchorages, great surf spots, and lots of friends.

- mike 11/10/01

JoLiGa - Ranger 29
John Sloboda
Overboard Anniversary In Oz

November 24 was the 11th anniversary of my falling overboard and going for a long, long swim before being rescued by a cruise ship in the Bay of Panama. This year I stayed home and watched TV aboard my boat!

I'm in Australia now, and find it very similar to the United States. Oz has five television networks, lots of radio stations, plenty of newspapers, modern supermarkets and shopping centers, and good marinas. As such, it seems like a nice place for me to stop to recover my sense of balance, repair my boat, and enjoy the comforts of modern society. To that end, I bought a new TV and a DVD player at Target - yep, they are here, too - plus some DVDs. I've been watching lots of movies. If I'm awake at 0100, I tune into the Today Show live from New York. The news here is totally up to date on the situation in Afghanistan. Other than that, they don't cover U.S. news or sports, preferring to cover Oz news and sports such as cricket, soccer and rugby.

Australia might not have a very large population, but it's about the same size as the United States. I'm staying in Bundaberg, Queensland, which is on the northeast coast at 24° south. It is usually warm during the day and cool at night. One night it got down to 56°, but lately it's been in the 70s and 80s. We're coming into summer, however, and I'm told to expect more heat and rain. Bundaberg is a very modern city with a population of 40,000. The Sunday papers are about as big as the L.A. Times - but they don't have as many comic strips.

I'm staying in Bundaberg Port Marina, which is so new that some parts are still under construction. So far, it's got nice showers and bathrooms, well-maintained grounds, a chandlery, laundry, restaurant, dive shop, and free bus service into town. It's almost heaven! They are finishing up the haul-out facility, which should be operational by mid-January. When they're done, I'm going to haul my boat to repair the damage I did to my keel at Musket Cove, Fiji. I missed seeing a channel marker, and it took six or eight dinghies to heel my boat over and drag her off. It could have been worse, though, as the tide was ebbing at the time.

After Fiji, I sailed to Port Vila, Vanuatu, then had a 10-day trip to here. After the first day, my trip from Port Vila was uneventful. While returning to the cockpit on that first day, I lost my balance, flew across the cockpit, landed on my ass and back, and shattered the bucket I use for a head. I wound up with a few lacerations and a very sore butt. It took me four days to get my sea legs again.

The first four days of my passage were marked by fine sailing, with wind on the quarter and my boat surfing to 7+ knots. After averaging 5.7 knots, the wind disappeared. Then it came out of the southwest - almost on the nose. So I motorsailed the rest of the way, arriving with just five gallons of diesel in reserve. If I would have had to depend on the wind, I'd still be out there.

The currents were very strong on the way here, too. At times I was steering 20° off my compass heading to get where I wanted to go. Thank God for GPS, as it lays out a course line. If you can follow it, you know you'll be sailing the shortest distance in probably the shortest time. As it turned out, I averaged 4.5 knots for the 1,092 miles. At least there were calm seas the entire way. My friend John on Oliver Lang was within sight of me for the first eight days, but he pulled ahead the last two days.

I lost 10 pounds on the passage, mostly because I was negligent about taking my insulin. But now I'm back on track. In fact, if I keep stuffing myself, I'll probably wind up dieting.

On the way here I loaded the Encyclopedia Britannica into my computer - and ended up losing the sound and some files. I'm writing this on my old computer, as the new one is getting a replacement hard drive. It's a beautiful machine when it works, but I have to be careful with what kinds of programs I load on it. I have some electronic navigation programs, and it's neat to see your boat move across the screen or a chart while you're underway - especially when you're entering a harbor. You have to be careful though. For example, while I was anchored in Tonga, sometimes the charts had me a quarter of a mile inland!

I've been trying to catch up on repairs since I arrived. There's a guy coming down today to look at my dodger and give me a quote to replace it. My present dodger is 17 years old, so the plastic windows are cloudy and cracked, and the material is rotting away. The Oz dollar is bringing 51.41 U.S. cents as of this morning, so my money goes a long way. While I was in Fiji, I was getting two for one. It made it easy to remember the exchange rate.

I'm going into town tomorrow to shop, as I'm eating a lot of fresh fruit and need more. Black cherries, nectarines, peaches, bananas, and strawberries are my favorites.

I like our President's response so far to the terrorist crisis. I just wish that I was still young enough to go over to Afghanistan to help.

- john 12/15/01

Velella - Wylie 31
Garth Wilcox and Wendy Hinman
Tonga To New Zealand
(Port Ludlow, Washington)

All during the month of October in Nuku Alofa, Tonga, cruiser conversation centered around when would be the best weather window to make the long -1,100-miles - and sometimes dangerous passage to New Zealand to escape the South Pacific cyclone season. We cruisers, turned amateur meteorologists, traded weather faxes and weather grams from various sources ad nauseam.

The typical passage to New Zealand lasts about 10 days, and stormy weather is reported to pass through the area about every six days. Yachtie legend has it that you're going to be pummeled by bad weather once; the trick is to make sure that you don't get hit twice. Another yachtie legend is that it's stormy along the route in late October and early November, but less so later on. The problem is that November is the official start of the tropical cyclone season, and a tropical cyclone is going to be a lot worse than any storm.

Weighing all the factors and options, we decided that we didn't want to pay visa renewal fees in Tonga and that we wanted to spend Thanksgiving in New Zealand, so that meant we'd take an earlier rather than a later weather window. We also had the opportunity to stop about 200 miles along the way at Minerva Reef, a shallow spot in the middle of the ocean enclosed by a fringing reef. But since we were enjoying ideal weather conditions when we got there, we decided to press on. Most other boats stopped at Minerva, so we continued on alone. One problem with stopping at Minerva, is that you'll likely have to be holed up there for a week waiting for the next window to New Zealand to open.

For the remaining 900 miles of our trip, we had either lots of wind from dead ahead or little to no wind at all.

Our upwind sailing was in 25 knot winds with tremendous head seas, causing water to gush over the decks and try to find a path inside. The spray flew over the top of the dodger at regular intervals. Sleeping in these conditions was difficult, and cooking was a big challenge. In fact, we hove to several times so that we could prepare a decent dinner and catch a little sleep.

On most popular cruising routes, the seas are from aft or at least on the beam, and aren't that much of an obstacle. But when they came from ahead on this passage, they were. We quickly learned that it doesn't take long for a little wind to create a sizeable sea, and that heading into them isn't comfortable. We buried the bow into wave after wave and, for all the wind we had, our progress was slow. We wished for less wind.

You've heard the adage, 'Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it'. It was true for us as well, since the wind and seas soon calmed to nothing at all. The ocean became a lake, and Velella bobbed in the still and flat water. The calm conditions were a welcome respite once the seas flattened, as we caught up on sleep, enjoyed more elaborate meals, and pulled out the computer to get more weather faxes and send some emails. We also enjoyed seeing little jellyfish on the surface and tiny electric blue creatures further down. But we weren't going anywhere! And since we didn't have enough fuel to motor all the way, we knew we had to wait it out. So the lack of wind became a test of patience. We sorely missed our spinnaker and spinnaker pole, which we had broken on our way to the Marquesas.

We began wishing for some wind - and before long, we were off on another wild ride. People pay good money in amusement parks to enjoy the kind of ride we had, blasting through waves and getting soaked, but they know it will be over in five minutes. After another day or so of being a sea torpedo, we were back to the windless flat calm seas we'd previously had. By this time we were really becoming impatient, and the thought of motoring became more appealing. This was particularly true when we learned that a low pressure system was headed our way, and that if we didn't make landfall soon, we'd be caught in a gale. And we still wanted to be in New Zealand for Thanksgiving.

We decided to do some motoring, but before long the engine quit. Garth investigated while we slatted around, and after changing filters and bleeding the diesel several times, finally got it to run for more than two hours at a stretch.

We finally entered the shelter of New Zealand's Bay of Islands about 11 p.m., escorted by dolphins blasting past our boat. I felt the boat wobble a little and some odd resistance on the tiller - and realized that it was the dolphins bumping up against our boat. We later talked to another skipper who hit or was hit by a large shark, which took out his autopilot.

We saw more navigation lights coming into Opua - the 'big city' in the area - than we had since leaving the States. Identifying the Customs Dock amongst all the lights at 0300 proved to be more challenging that we expected, but we finally pulled in and got some rest before Customs and Immigration opened early the next morning. Even though we hadn't had a pleasant trip, it hadn't been bad. We encountered no storms, major equipment failures, injuries, or notable hardships.

Prior to arriving, we'd been told that herbs and spices, sun-dried tomatoes, dried red peppers, dried mushrooms, eggs and dried eggs, salami, fresh and lunch meats, cheese, milk, butter, honey, popcorn kernels, nuts, dried fruit, grains and, of course, fresh produce, were all restricted from entry into New Zealand. We had been eating through our provisions fairly well all along, and the limited selection in Tonga made it easy to eat through our existing stores. In fact, while in Tonga we cruisers traded food items that we had in excess to prevent it from going to waste. And if we ran out of something, we were often able to get it from fellow cruisers. So we spent our trip trying to eat through the restricted provisions. Thanks to the light winds, we did a pretty good job of arriving with empty lockers. We even managed to eat most of our nuts, which, when we went through our snack lockers, we realized that we had been stockpiling.

Clearance was quick and painless, and the officials were concerned about fewer items than we had expected. All we lost to quarantine were two cups of popcorn kernels, several cups of peanuts in shells, an opened container of butter, a small amount of cheese, some powdered eggs, some open powdered milk, beef bouillon - and a jicama that we had purchased way back in Mexico in March!

As we write this, we're celebrating Thanksgiving in Opua, New Zealand, with lots of other cruisers. Here are the facts on our trip: We covered 1,043 miles in 11 days, motoring 16 of those hours. We had everything from calms to 30 knots of wind. Our boat speed ranged from 0.0 to 8.1 knots. Our worst day's run was just 41 miles, our best was 141 miles, our average was 96 miles. We crossed the dateline on November 13, and celebrated by eating freeze-dried ice cream sandwiches and having a sip of port. The highlight of our trip was arriving in New Zealand!

- wendy & garth 12/1/'01

Nanamuk - Endurance 35
The Dodge Family
Seven Year Circumnavigation
(Victoria, British Columbia)

After a seven-year circumnavigation, Nanamuk - and her crew of Rob and Grace, and children Alan, 14, and Janelle, 12 - is back home.

We spent 2.5 years in Mexico, then crossed the Pacific with the first group of Latitude's Pacific Puddle Jumpers. We retraced the '82-'85 Milk Run to New Zealand that Rob and Grace had done prior to having kids, then sailed back up to Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, the Louisiades and northern Australia. Property mismanagement brought us home from Darwin for the hurricane season, afterwhich we sailed on up through Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The famed 'easy run' across the Indian Ocean was a disappointment, as we had 'noserlies' up to 35 knots most of the time. Our enjoyment of the next leg up the Gulf of Aden and into the Red Sea was dampened after the yacht Gone Troppo was attacked by pirates off the coast of Yemen. Northerlies subsequently controlled our lives until we finally 'popped out' into the Med - where we cruised for a spring and summer.

While in the Med, we continued with our 'new plan every morning and change it again at 11' motto. As a result, our initial plan for a winter in the Med was replaced with quick dash back home to Vancouver. We had a great Atlantic crossing - other than the fact Rob ruptured a disc in his back 700 miles from Barbados and then required six weeks of recuperation before he could walk again. Thank goodness that our kids are great sailors and were able to take over his watches and duties. Once Rob could move again, we continued on to Panama, through the Canal in March, then harbor-hopped our way back to Vancouver, arriving at the end of June.

Sorry this is short and superficial, as we had lots of great times. None of them scary, however. Nanamuk was a little small for four of us, but I wouldn't have traded her for a larger boat at any time. She carried the 8,000 pounds of extra gear/provisions without a shudder or a wallow.

- the dodge family 11/15/'01

Spindrift - Catalac Cat
Ron & Linda Caywood
Altata, Mexico
(Portland, Oregon)

The first time we sailed our cat from Mazatlan across the Sea of Cortez for La Paz, we got pounded by the waves and ended up well to the south. And when it came time to sail up through the Cerralvo Passage, we really took a beating. So when we needed to sail from Mazatlan back to La Paz again, we first sailed 110 miles up the coast of mainland Mexico to the seldom-visited port of Altata. After a stop in the large lagoon with a sandy bottom, we headed out west across the Sea of Cortez, and made landfall at the north end of Isla Partida, well to the north and upwind of La Paz. We stayed at the island for a couple of days before sailing downhill into La Paz.

Thinking others might want to try the same thing, here's some info on Altata. The port captain speaks good English - which is a good thing, because we were told that we were the first cruisers to ever stop there. He didn't know what to do about checking in, so he just made a copy of our paperwork for his files, and stamped the back of our originals. There was no fee. How little known is Altata? When we got to the port captain's office in La Paz, they had to look it up on a map to find out where it was. Nobody had realized that it was possible to get into the lagoon or that they had a port captain.

The entrance to the lagoon at Altata is marked by the #1 buoy, which is marked by a flashing white light. If you arrive at night, we suggest that you go southeast to 15 feet of water and wait, as this is definitely not a good place to enter at night. The #1 buoy is in about 25 feet of water. The water shallows to 15 feet between buoys #2 and #3, then deepens to 30 feet again. Angle toward the north shore after #4, and you'll find 50 or more feet of water. But as you pass the sandspit going east, the water shallows to 10 feet. Head toward a watertower until you see the darker water of the channel going north to Altata, which is about five miles away. It's easy to stay in the channel from there, and there is 12 to 30 feet of water all the way to town.

When we got to town, we found that Gustav at the La Perla restaurant tried to be very helpful - but he speaks no English. His son Ceasar, who grew up in L.A., speaks English perfectly. Alas, Ceasar is in school except on weekends. On our first visit to Altata, Gustav took me to the Pemex station and used his 10 gallon jugs and his panga to ferry fuel out to our boat. The next year our starter solenoid quit in Altata, so Gustav drove us 30 miles to Culiacan to get a new one. I paid $100 for a $50 solenoid, but that's Mexico. Gustav then took us to lunch - and wouldn't let me pay. He wouldn't even let me pay for his time and fuel! So the next day, we had Linda, who is a barber, cut the hair of everyone in Gustav's family. It was small compensation for what he did for us.

Gustav, his family, and all the people of Altata are wonderful. We hope to visit them again one day.
It seems that each time we visited Altata, we had to wait four or five days for the wind to switch from the west to the northwest so we'd have a good sailing angle across the Sea of Cortez.

Having to wait was worth it, as we had a great time in Altata - and ate plenty of delicious shrimp at the La Perla Restaurant. Here's a funny thing about the waterfront restaurants in Altata: they are tents set up along the water. At low tide, all the chairs and tables are standing on dry sand. But when the tide comes in, they are resting in about four inches of water - and the waiters all wear rubber boots when serving you. It's very unusual. On weekends, it seems as though all of Culiacan comes to the beach, and Altata is like a carnival. Don't miss it!

We are now in Port Isabel, Texas, for the winter, having trucked our relatively narrow catamaran back from San Carlos. We're going to spend the next few years doing the IntraCoastal Waterway and the Bahamas. We hope all our friends in Mexico will stay in touch. Ron wants to thank all the bridge players who suffered through his learning, because he sure came to enjoy it. He is now a member of the American Bridge League and plays duplicate bridge. We will keep everyone informed about the ICW - which we already know is dirty, too narrow to sail in, and has many barges which have the right of way. On the Gulf Coast part, there are also alligators and crawdads.
P.S. We've only been gone a short time, but we already miss the Sea of Cortez.

- ron & linda 11/15/'01

Aurora - Cal 40
Rob Wyess
Racing While Cruising
(Northern California)

My crewmember, Youngla, and I sailed out the Gate last October and spent the winter cruising Mexico as far south as Z-town. We sailed back up to Puerto Vallarta in March to be part of Latitude's Pacific Puddle Jump Party at Paradise Marina. In April, we became members of the 'second wave' of Puddle Jumpers who headed across the Pacific to the Marquesas. Our Pacific crossing was a relatively uneventful 21 days, and we subsequently have been spending the season enjoying the splendors of French Polynesia, Rarotonga and Niue.

We are now in Vava'u, Tonga - where the cruising is absolutely wonderful! After many weeks of open ocean sailing, and sometimes rolly and dangerous anchorages, it's great to be in an area of beautiful islands where there is flatwater tradewind sailing and peaceful anchorages. There are about 70 cruising boats in Neiafu right now, waiting out a high pressure system to the south that has created 25-35 knot winds. Some are heading further west to Fiji and Oz, but most are headed south to New Zealand.

One of the many ways to pass the time here - besides diving, swimming with whales, kava parties, and umu feasts - are the weekly Friday night races. They are held in the bay, and are sponsored by The Moorings, which has a big charterboat base here, and by Ann's Cafe, a waterfront watering hole. As I mentioned in my May Changes, I purchased Aurora the previous May and spent the summer getting her ready for 'the cruise'. So far she has lived up to the Cal 40 reputation of being a fast and capable passage-maker. So I decided I might as well see how she'd do on the race course.

Having never raced before - and still being in cruise mode with a reefed main - we nonetheless overcame a bad start in my first race to take seventh place. It was fun and exciting, so I wanted more. The winds were lighter the following Friday night, so we shook out the reef and went with the 150% genoa. Luckily, I was joined at the last minute by Barry of Cherokee, an experienced tactician. After an okay start, we finished second behind a Sunsail 48 charterboat that's skippered by Mark, who almost always wins. I was jazzed, and was heard to mumble, "If we'd only gotten a better start!"

We nailed the start the following week, and were leading the pack until just before the last mark when - crunch! - the bow of a Sunsail boat hit our starboard stern rail. Instinctively, I turned hard to port to avoid further damage. I immediately saw that the MOB pole had snapped in half, and later noticed bent stanchions, bases and cracked T-fittings. Shit happens, right? At least the other boat had missed my Monitor vane. In something of a dazed shock, I watched as the other boat continued on to round the mark ahead of us and go on to win!

Back at the bar, I confronted the helmsman of the Sunsail boat, which had been to windward and was the overtaking vessel. When I asked why he hit us, I was shocked to hear him say, "I didn't hit you, you hit me!" I didn't want to make a stink or protest, as this was a 'fun race'. But over beers, my crew and I decided that the only thing to do was to come back next week, dressed 'native', and win the race. And we did, too! So the Cal 40 legend lives on. At the awards ceremony in the bar where every skipper who races gets a prize from a six-pack to free dives, I was presented with a warm bottle of champagne and told to "chill it".

After spending a short time trying to figure out what that comment meant, I decided to put Aurora's racing days on hold. After all, in a few weeks we'd need to make the often difficult passage to New Zealand. So the next Friday, I hitched a ride aboard Tortolo, a Kiwi boat skippered by Nyle. He's raced many times and has had his share of close calls, but has a philosophy of just staying out of the way. We came in third, but still had a great time. It got me to wondering if I had brought the American attitude toward the importance of winning to the South Pacific with me. One of the things that I've become aware of while cruising other countries and cultures is the importance of recognizing and respecting the differences in culture, and not wanting to come across as an Ugly American. I like to think we showed the people in Neiafu that we like to have fun as much as we like to win.

In any event, the people and businesses who cater to cruisers in Neiafu have been very accommodating and helpful. They take turns running the morning net, which is a great way to find out where everyone is getting together for fun. There's always something happening, which is one of the reasons Neiafu is such a great place to spend some time.

My crewmember Youngla has decided that the cruising lifestyle is not for her, and has returned to the States. So if there are any fun-loving and adventurous ladies out there who would like to join me and Aurora in New Zealand, I can be reached . Peace.

- rob 10/15/'01

Rob - When it comes to racing aggressively - even on Friday nights - nobody compares to the Kiwis. They sail fair, but they like to win.

Hasty Hart - Swan 61
Capt. Rick Pearce
Viejo Mexico
(San Francisco YC)

We're about ready to head down to Mexico for our ninth winter season. But first, I'd like to share a tale of a weekend full of problems we had in Banderas Bay back in the late '80s.

It happened in 1988 on my first cruise to Mexico aboard the previous Hasty Hart, a Centurion 47. After a wonderful meal on the beach prepared by a local family in the exotic-sounding town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle - about 10 miles north of Puerto Vallarta - we asked for any information about the two marinas under construction in Banderas Bay: Nuevo Vallarta and Marina Vallarta. In both cases, breakwaters had been built, the lagoons dredged, and the shore lined with rocks or walls.

Our host didn't know about the one at Puerto Vallarta, but said that his English-speaking younger brother operated a parasail boat out of Nuevo Vallarta, and would be able to help us with everything there. After reporting that these berths had electricity and water, he confirmed the information we had regarding the time of high tide and that the channel entrance had "plenty of water". Having not been to a dock since leaving San Diego three weeks before, everyone on the boat was eager to give Nuevo Vallarta a try.

We got underway for the seven mile trip the next morning, and while underway spoke with a cruiser inside 'Nuevo' who once again confirmed the time of high tide and that there would be plenty of water for our deep draft boat to enter. It was indeed high tide when we arrived, and as we slowly entered between the breakwaters, the waves gently lifted us a half a foot or so, carrying us forward. About halfway in, mid-channel, we touched bottom! At the end of the next lift, we touched again - this time much more noticeably. Soon we were stuck. It was then that I learned just about everything I would ever need to learn about trusting people who assured us there was plenty of water for us to enter a channel.

For the next hour - with the tide visibly receding - we ran down the list of things to do to get unstuck. We hung several heavy sails off the end of the boom, then wung it out as far as we could to induce heel. One of the crew got in the tender and roared around in circles trying to create wavelets to break us free so we could wiggle through. With Hart at the wheel trying to motor forward, the rest of the guests comically tried to add their weight to the end of the boom.

We'd made a little bit of progress before a growing crowd, but with the tide going out it seemed as though we might be stuck for a long time. Then our hero arrived in his parasail boat. He took a line from our boat, and with just a little more commotion on our part, helped us charge through the last of the mud and into the deeper water of the lagoon.

This was just the beginning of the story, for we quickly discovered that the marina only had 30 foot slips, so larger boats tied up diagonally and every which way. What's more, the new wooden docks were already coming apart! About six of the boats did have electrical service - via a single extension cord running to a building under construction on the shore. There was other construction going on as well, but nothing was finished or open. It was one of those, 'no phone, no food, no sex' places. As if we weren't disappointed enough, you can imagine how happy we were to learn that we'd come in on what would be the highest tide for the next 2.5 weeks! Thinking this part of the cruise was over, Hart, the owner, his guest, and the rest of the crew abandoned ship for a hotel downtown.

I stayed with the boat, but retreated to the shade of a partially built wall to share some cervezas with the parasail driver who had towed us in and with a few of his amigos. I soon discovered that our rescuing parasail driver was, in fact, the brother of the man we had met the previous night at La Cruz. Before the last Corona was consumed, he and his friends assured me that it would be no problema for them to tow Hasty Hart out of the marina the next day - even though the tide would be lower. Unlike everyone else, it turned out they could be believed.

At first light the next morning, one parasail boat took a line from our boat, another took a line from our stern, and my hero-friend took the spinnaker halyard. By pulling on the spinnaker halyard, our friend was able to keep the gunnel awash. Meanwhile, the other two boats pulled on the bow and stern - and although we did bounce lightly a couple of times, we made it out - sideways! Fortunately, Wauquiez builds very strong boats, so the boat wasn't hurt, and Hart's wallet only slightly.

I've been back to Nuevo Vallarta many times since, but I'm sorry to say that I've never met up with these amigos again, and cannot remember their names.

As you can tell from the additional print below, there is even more to my story of trying to find good berthing in Puerto Vallarta back in '88. After I got out of the Nuevo Vallarta channel, I headed a couple of miles over to the entrance to the Puerto Vallarta Harbor. After passing a cruise ship on my way in, I spotted a line of anchored boats - some work boats, some cruisers - in what came to be known as the Entrada. Lo and behold, right in the middle of all these boats was a gap, which looked for the world as if it had been reserved for me and Hasty Hart.

Back then, I had very little anchoring experience, let alone anchoring experience alone. Nonetheless, I decided to do the deed. I got the bow anchor down, backed in, launched the Avon, and rowed a Danforth ashore that I set above the tide line. Feeling rather proud of myself, I rowed off in search of Hart to tell him the good news. He was easily found and very much relieved to hear the news - especially since he'd just returned from a cab ride up to Nuevo Vallarta where he had found his boat missing! Nobody had witnessed my departure, and by then the parasail boats were all out working. But all's well that ends well, and an exceptional champagne lunch soon followed.

No, the story is not over. After the champagne lunch, it was time to row back to Hasty Hart for a little siesta. She looked splendid there with the other boats, and I noticed that the tide had gone out. As I got close, I began to see things in the murky water. I thought they might be rays or fish, but they weren't moving. I was starting to get a bad feeling as I reached for my mask and snorkel, because in my mind's eye, the shadows were starting to look like rusty metal fingers.

I carefully lowered myself down the ladder into the water, getting my head underwater as soon as possible. With one look around, I could see that it was indeed jagged metal under Hasty Hart, the jagged metal of the bottom half of a rusting away boat. I had anchored directly above an unmarked derelict. After inspecting all around and forward to deeper water, I realized just how lucky I had been (again). The rusting hull was almost twice as long as Hasty Hart's, and had several jagged ruins reaching up to within three feet of the surface, however it was all clear ahead! So I retrieved the beach anchor and slowly motored the hell out of there. But to where?

As I looked ahead, I saw the obviously new entrance to the yet to be built Marina Vallarta. Knowing this would be my third strike - but that the tide would at least soon be rising - I motored on in with "plenty of water". Except for birds and iguanas I was all alone. It was a beautiful spot, and there weren't any docks or buildings in yet. I dropped the anchor there in the middle of the empty marina. All I had left to do was to row back to Hart's hotel and let him know where I had now moved his boat.

- rick 11/15/01

Rick - Years have passed, but you may be pleased to learn that Nuevo Vallarta hasn't changed much. It's a funky place, with all kinds 50-footers crammed into 30-foot slips anyway they can. The water and electrical service is still sporadic. Worst of all, deep draft boats are still getting stuck in the channel. But there is now a full time dredge in operation, so that should be a thing of the past.

Cruise Notes:

It's new, it's fun, and it's for charity! On March 12 - two days before the start of the Banderas Bay Regatta - everyone is invited to participate in the first annual Spinnaker Cup, from Punta de Mita to Nuevo Vallarta. You can participate with either your boat - so far the Perry 52 cat Little Wing, the 45-ft Capricorn Cat, and the 63-ft Profligate have committed - or by donating $25 to be a guest on one of the boats. The crews will gather at Punta de Mita for fun and games on the beach, followed by a festive lobster lunch at the beachside palapas. When the afternoon breeze comes up, everybody will be shuttled out to the boats, the chutes will be hoisted, and stereos will be turned up loud, and the dancing will begin. For the next two hours or so, everyone should enjoy some of the warmest and sweetest spinnaker sailing - and socializing - in the world. There will be no starting line, no finish line, and no handicaps, and any boat that pulls into the lead will be expected to jibe until the others catch up. We're talking about serious fun! All the proceeds will go to the Banderas Bay Regatta Committee - which approves of the Spinnaker Cup - for distribution among local charities. More info next month!

"I'm having a marvelous time in Phuket, Thailand, but it's dangerous here," reports longtime San Francisco cruiser Dave Kopec of Meander. "Last week, an Aussie named Ferguson received a telephone call that his boat was on fire in her slip at Yacht Haven Marina near Phang Na Bay. He roared back - including through a village at 50 mph - to find things under control. But back at the Muslim village he had raced through - which only exists because of the money yachts pour into the area - the locals took offense at his speeding. They formed a mob and came down to the marina shouting, "Kill Americans! Kill British!" They dragged Ferguson off his boat and stoned him. Yes, they stoned him! He only escaped by swimming for his life. He was later hospitalized and arrested for his own protection. All this happened within 200 meters of our group of yachts, so we created a defense perimeter and formed a battle plan. Fortunately, neither was needed. We believe the mob was going to get a Ramadan blessing from the Imam of Malaysia." This information was forwarded by Jan Pehrson of Sausalito and Florida.

Thanks to Osama Yo Mama, at the beginning of the year cruising skippers in Southeast Asia must decide what to do. Should they - despite the warnings of the U.S. State Department - continue across the Indian Ocean and up the Red Sea to the Med, and in so doing run the gauntlet of Muslim countries? Should they stay in Southeast Asia another year? Or should they sail across the Indian Ocean, around South Africa, and up the Atlantic, skipping the Med altogether? It's not an easy decision.

If any of them decide on the latter option, they may want to check out Sail Africa, The Cape of Good Hope Cruising Route at This website is run by "Bob", who has five years of experience sailing some of these waters aboard his ketch Seerose. Although Bob actually did the reverse course - sailing from South Africa to Southeast Asia by way of the African side of the Mozambique Channel - the site has a great deal of useful information regarding passage planning, charts, ports and approaches, immigration, services, and weather in that part of the world. It's particularly good if you're interested in the 'waters less travelled' of Mozambique, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Kenya.

Catch of the summer? We were surfing the web last month when we stumbled across Guy and Deborah Bunting's webpage for their cruise aboard Élan, the Morrelli and Melvin catamaran that Guy built in Vista. In the site they reported having so much fun catching and eating seafood in the Sea of Cortez during the summer of '00, that they decided to spend the summer of '01 there also. How was the fishing? You be the judge by checking out the photo on the previous page. Guy said they had calamari for weeks.

The folks in Grenada - located near the bottom of the crescent of islands in the Eastern Caribbean known as the Lesser Antilles - were recently cautioned about the possibility of tsunamis caused by the eruptions of an underwater volcano with the cool name of Kick'em Jenny. This puzzled us, because we've sailed by Kick'em Jenny several times, and remember it as towering nearly 700 feet high above the Caribbean Sea, not lurking 500 feet down. It turns out that Kick'em Jenny the volcano is about five miles to the north of Grenada, while Kick'em Jenny the rock is about three miles to the northeast of that. In any event, knowing the folks in Grenada, nobody is lying awake at night worrying about tsunamis. Grenada is such a Garden of Eden environment, that we don't think the locals worry much about anything.

"We claim to be the first 2001 Ha-Ha boat to sail as far north as Puerto Escondido in the Sea of Cortez," write Dave Gilman and Tint Khine of the San Francisco-based F-31 Prime Directive. "We got up here on November 16 - just six days after the awards party - following overnights at Frailes, Muertos, Caleta Partida, Escuela, and Agua Verde. While at Muertos, we traded some Pringles chips for some tuna from fellow Ha-Ha boat Desperado, as those guys were still hooking 'em. At Partida, we had some great swimming and a potluck with Ed and Daisy, a couple of more Ha-Ha'ers on the Florida-based CSY 44 Siesta. At Aqua Verde, we tucked into a shallow cove with a stern line ashore, and were completely secluded. Having only used one gallon of fuel during the entire Ha-Ha, we really started burning it after rounding the East Cape of Baja and heading up into the Sea of Cortez. In fact, I nominate our 9.9 hp outboard as the hardest working piece of gear on our boat during the northbound leg, as it pushed us through steep chop for countless hours, with the prop often getting nothing but air. (While heading south on the Ha-Ha, our autopilot was the hardest working piece of gear, struggling to straighten us out each time we accelerated down the face of a big swell. Whoa!)

"Puerto Escondido was our destination for meeting our friends who drove our truck and trailer two-thirds of the way down the Baja Peninsula," continue Dave and Tint, "so imagine our entering the inner harbor to find another F-31! After being the baby multihull in the Ha-Ha fleet, we were freaked to find Al and Cindy Pagel with UFO ready to start their trip south. On the 20th, as we were de-rigging our boat for the long drive home, more Ha-Ha friends - Dave and Merry Wallace aboard the Redwood City-based Amel Maramu 46 Air Ops - pulled in. We completed our entire Ha-Ha - four weeks and a day after we left - by pulling into our parking spot at Alameda Marina on November 25. I guess that makes us one of the fastest Ha-Ha boats to make a round trip - although we didn't do a 'Baja Bash'. Do you think we could have crammed anymore into our vacation?"

After the Ha-Ha, we asked Tint if she'd ever been scared. She said she had not. Confession must be good for the soul, because about 15 minutes later she sheepishly returned to admit she had been scared a couple of times - specifically during her 0300 to 0600 watch when there was a good breeze and the spinnaker was up. Although she knew better, she was concerned that the tri might flip. We know the feeling Tint. We get the irrational fear that Profligate might flip - but only when other people are driving.

Another quick roundtrip: "I just wanted to let you know that I thought the Ha-Ha was pretty dang fun, and that all the parties were great," writes Angela the Surf Queen, who crewed aboard Richard Bernard's Valiant 42 Surf Ride. "I helped Ricardo bring the boat back to San Diego, and we stopped at Bahia Santa Maria to surf for a couple of days before continuing on. We had a pretty mellow 'bash'. When we got back, Ricardo had me come along to look at a big cat in Newport Beach, as he needs a boat with room for more surfboards. I liked the cat we saw, but he thought it had "too much fluff". Anyhow, I'm having Mexico withdrawls and may return in January."

"This is a little out of date because I've been so busy, but my cat was dismasted late this summer while pacing some TransPac boats back to the mainland," reports Keith MacKenzie of the Vancouver-based - although she's never been there - Crowther 45 cat What's Up Doc. "I lost the mast just before midnight about 100 miles from Kauai while turning on the radar. There was a squall right on top of me, and I was too slow to dump the sheets. Prior to the mast jumping ship, the wind had been blowing in the high 30s and I'd been pushing the boat harder than I should - 10 to 12 knots to windward under a double-reefed main and a jib. What happened is the mast base failed - allowing the rig to jump cleanly off the deck and over the side! If I'd had crew, I might have been able to save it. Since I was alone, I had to cut the mast and sails free before they damaged the boat. Ironically, I'd been heading to Vancouver to get a new mast. Now I have to replace it and do a refit in Hawaii - about the most expensive place possible. What's Up Doc is currently at the Ko Olina Marina on Oahu, and by the new year should be fitted with a Crowther-designed spreaderless carbon rotating rig. Once the rig is in, I'll be offering my Blue Water Catamaran Expedition charters to Palmyra until the end of spring. Then I'll sail to the Northwest, and later down the coast to San Diego to participate in the 2002 Ha-Ha. I tried to get on one of the cats in this year's Ha-Ha, but was too late! Folks can check out my site at"

It seems to us that far too many custom cats lose their rigs. When we had Profligate built, we upped the mast specs significantly from what the designer called for. Then the mast builder upped them some more. After two scary years of being unable to keep the spar in column on the smooth waters of San Francisco Bay, we replaced it with a much bigger extrusion - and are delighted we did. By the way, the old mast has been sunning itself atop Harbor Boat Works in Santa Barbara for the last two years, and is rested and ready for anybody building a light 55-footer and wanting a bargain on the mast and rigging.

"There was a letter in your November issue from a Dean Dietrich who asked about places to safely store a yacht in the Caribbean," writes Victoria Yarnold, Manager of the Lagoon Marina and Hotel on the island of St. Vincent in the Eastern Caribbean country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. "You mentioned many islands in your reply, but as seems the norm, our island of St. Vincent was not mentioned. I'd like everyone to know that we operate a full service marina in the Blue Lagoon area, complete with dockage, fuel, laundry services, supermarket, boutique, 19-room hotel, and many other services. We are part of Sunsail/Stardust (First Choice Marine Division), and therefore have Sunsail and Stardust boats berthed here. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is definitely one of the most untouched and unspoiled places in the world, and offers some of the very best sailing and diving. It's a shame that we get forgotten so frequently. Maybe you could do a feature on St. Vincent and the Grenadines! Visting yachtsmen and women are always warmly welcomed here. Our half-priced drinks every evening whilst getting the best view of the green flash at sunset can't be beaten. Please visit our website at - or better yet, visit us in person."

Thanks for the info Victoria. We kicked around the Caribbean quite a bit, but only spent a little time at St. Vincent. Your place looks great in the photos. Within the next year, we plan to sail from Grenada to the British Virgins, in which case we'd certainly stop by.

Most mariners assume that being a harbormaster is a cushy and routine job. Not so. Last month, for example, a slimy fellow reeking of fish slid his way into the Harbormaster's Office at Paradise Marina just north of Puerto Vallarta, and inquired about a slip. Manuel, the harbormaster's assistant, tried to be as nice as possible, and was able to find a temporary space for Mr. Seal. That's when things turned unpleasant, as Mr. Seal wouldn't sign the berthing agreement, and then began barking about a reduced rate because he didn't need electricity! So it goes.
"My 2001 cruising season can be summed up in 11 words: seven months, 4,300 miles, and lots of great friends and adventures," reports John Keen of the Gulf 32 Pilothouse Knot Yet. "The season saw me travelling from Townsville, Australia, to Phuket, Thailand, via Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Knot Yet is currently on the hard in Boat Lagoon, Phuket, while I return to California for the holidays."

"It's been a year since we did the Ha-Ha, so we thought we'd check in," report Keith and Kelly Mackenzie - and their sons Kris and Kyle - aboard the Edmonton, Alberta-based TransPac 49 Scalawag. "We're currently in Golfito, Costa Rica, and have been enjoying this country for over three months as we s-l-o-w-l-y work our way toward Panama. Although Panama was not our original destination, it's where we're headed now. When it comes to cruiser plans, 'he who changes his mind the most, wins'. We may be in the lead. We're thinking of going down to Ecuador in February to do a circle that includes the Galapagos, Cocos Island and then returning to Panama in June. A few other boats have done it, and we hear that there are some places to haul and do repairs that are much less expensive than Panama or Costa Rica. Plus we can see some different cultures, even before travelling to Peru and Chile by land. If anybody wants to buddyboat with us, the more the merrier!

"We've also just read Chewbacca's thoughts on homeschooling being easier the second year - and agree," the Mackenzies continue. "We feel sorry for those families who gave up after the first year. For example, for today's studies Kyle, 9, and Kris, 11, had to write a menu for a full meal that they would prepare. This required making recipies, a shopping list, colored paper menus, and a plan of attack. It helped them realize that preparing an onboard meal with limited supplies can be a challenge - especially when some key ingredients simply aren't available in Costa Rica. I'll let you know how the meal turns out. The key to homeschooling? Flexibility."

Greetings from the anchorage at La Cruz, about 11 miles north of Puerto Vallarta," write John and Susan Pazera of the South San Francisco-based Tayana 42 Compania. "After 1,634 miles - 224 engine hours, and 90 hours of sailing - we have arrived at cruisers' Nirvana. After the Ha-Ha we sailed to Mazatlan, and then on December 8 left for 88-mile distant Isla Isabella. Anchoring at the small and rocky offshore bird sanctuary is a little tricky, but was a great place for a stopover, and afforded great hiking among an amazing array of birdlife. We're told the snorkeling is also terrific, but John was sidelined with a sinus cold. We then made the 42-mile passage to the fabulous little seaside village of Chacala, which used to be a coconut plantation. It has a great beach and you can spend the afternoon digging your feet in the sand at a palapa restaurant and watching the ocean. The local Mexicans are - as they are everywhere - very friendly and quick with a smile.

"We finally arrived at our nirvana - Banderas Bay - on December 11, and currently have the hook down at La Cruz, about 10 miles from Puerto Vallarta proper," they continue. "You dinghy ashore and tie up at Cruisers Connection, where you can get freshwater, throw out your garbage, and buy cold cervezas for about 90 cents. Peaceful La Cruz has cobblestone streets, lots of tiendas and little restaurants, and blooming bougainvillea everywhere. Quite a few cruisers have settled here and provide services that are a big help to active cruisers such as ourselves. Is cruising expensive in Mexico? In most places margaritas haven't been more than 350 pesos - less than $3 U.S. - and at luxurious El Cid Marina in Mazatlan, they were just 250 pesos. Lunches run about $5 U.S. and dinners about $8 U.S. Yesterday, we got a huge pile of laundry washed and folded for $11 U.S. And for just $1.50, we can catch an air-conditioned bus for the 40-minute ride into Puerto Vallarta. We're inclined to spend Christmas and New Years on the hook here in La Cruz, and after that we'll see about checking into a marina to give the boat a good scrubbing. We'll probably resume heading south by mid-January. We are still buddyboating with our Ha-Ha friends Richard and Dana on Islander Freeport 36 Magic Mist from San Diego via Arizona, and Ron and Sue Powell and their daughters Katharine and Christine aboard the Seattle-based Tartan 41 Dulcinea."

We're surprised, John and Susan, that you didn't mention Philo's Music Studio, Restaurant and Bar in La Cruz. A member of the previous Ha-Ha, Philo Hayward has interuppted his cruising aboard his Cal 36 Cherokee Spirit for the winter to operate the music hall/bar/restaurant that he bought. Check it out.

"After being part of the Ha-Ha in '99, we cruised Mexican waters until March of this year, at which time we did the Puddle Jump," report Jerry and Barbara Phillips of the San Francisco-based Pearson 424 ketch Free Spirit. "We're now in Whangarei, New Zealand, having really enjoyed our wandering through the Marquesas, Tuamotus, Societies, Rarotonga, Niue, Tonga, and Fiji. We plan on leaving our boat on the hard for a year and land travel in the U.S. and Europe, then return to our boat in New Zealand for more sailing adventures. We love the retired lifestyle!"

Do you speak Spanish? If so, can you confirm that the following message - a partir del 5 de diembre del 2001 nuestra nueva direccion de correo electronico es: - means that the Hemingway International YC just outside Havana, Cuba, has a new email address? By the way, we got the message a little late, but our old amigo Commodore Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich cordially invited all sailors to enjoy the hospitality of the people of Havana by participating in the club's Happy New Year Race, which was to take place on December 29 over a four-mile course between Santa Fe, Marina Hemingway, and Jaimanitas. It was open to spinnaker and non-spinnaker monohulls, and multihulls, and there was to be a big awards party afterward. If you missed it this year, we're sure they'll do it again next year. Won't it be great when Cuba finally opens up?

"I know you put an announcement in the July 27th 'Lectronic Latitude, but I'm still searching for news on Chris and Gerry Blomfield-Brown of the vessel Tahirih, who are presumably still cruising the South Pacific area," writes Götz Schneider-Rothhaar of Frankfurt, Germany. "Isn't there someone out there who knows anything about these two cruisers?"

"We've been coming down to Mexico aboard Capricorn Cat for the last six years," report Blair and Joan Grinols of the Vallejo-based Capricorn Cat, "but this year's trip has been one of the best ever. We've had very good sailing all the way down, as it never blew too hard - except while rounding the corner at Bahia Santa Maria during the Ha-Ha, when we blew up the spinnaker. I should have known better. The fishing has been great, too. We caught a big dorado just north of Cabo, and a 45-pound wahoo just off Chacala on the mainland side. We're now enjoying life at Paradise Marina in Banderas Bay, which Harbormaster Dick Markie calls our "second home"."
"We're down in Z-town now," write Blair and Joan with an update. "Boy, have we had the red tides this year. The water of Banderas Bay looked the color of tea, and the water inside the marina was putrid! My new paint grew a zillion tiny dark barnacles, so between the worst of the red tides at Tenancatita Bay, I dove on my bottom and did some scraping. We ran into more stretches of red tide most of the way down to Z-town, but the water here is warm and fairly clean. By the way, last night we anchored in Caleta de Campos and had a lot of trouble sleeping. It may have had something to do with the fact that the last time we were there - a couple of years ago - we were boarded and robbed by a man with a gun. At the magic robbery hour of 0200, my eyes popped open, and I just couldn't go back to sleep. So we got underway. We've since been told that the town used to be a haven for drug drop-offs and pick-ups, but now they have a station for the Mexican version of the Highway Patrol. The area is supposed to be safe now. We wish we'd known about it before getting to Z-town, as we would have slept better. We're having great cruising this year, but Blair is already dreaming of next year's itinerary: Hawaii, the Marshalls, the Gilberts, Vanuatu and Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Hawaii, and home."

We were on Banderas Bay in early December, and it was the worst red tide we'd ever seen. Even in the middle of Banderas Bay much of the water was almost the color of merlot. As for the water in Nuevo Vallarta, it looked as though somebody had dumped cup of coffee into a glass of merlot. It was awful. It apparently had been going on for three weeks, which is an extremely long time for a red tide. By the middle of December, it was almost all gone.

Tony Johnson and Terry Shrode - who are in the midst of a circumnavigation aboard the San Francisco-based Ericson 39 Maverick - endured a couple of tough weeks after leaving Bali, Indonesia. On Thanksgiving Day, for example, they went aground "in lots of current and chop" while trying to enter Banjarmasin Harbor to escape even rougher weather out in the Java Sea. They had the up-to-date charts, but the channel into the harbor had shifted. The result was "five extremely difficult hours kedging Maverick off while she took a horrible pounding". Luckily she'd gone aground in soft mud. It was also fortunate that a breakaway barge was retrieved by her tug before smashing into the stranded sailboat. Once Maverick was pulled back into deeper water, Tony and Terry anchored on a lee shore with five feet of chop coming in from the Java Sea. You know that couldn't have been fun.

Why hadn't they continued on to Singapore in the first place? "The wind had been on the nose ever since Bali, and even though Maverick is a great upwind boat, we had been unable to make any progress. Keep in mind that we raced Maverick in a Farallones Race when it was blowing 35 knots with 15 foot seas, and had been able to make good progress. So whatever we had out in the Java Sea was worse than that."

By December 1, Tony and Terry were anchored safely in the Kumai River of Kalimantan (formerly Borneo), and ready to head out the next day on a rough passage to Singapore in company with friends aboard the Freeport 41 Okiva. By December 11, they were secure in a marina across the Singapore Strait from Singapore itself. "We haven't talked to all of the skippers who made the passage from Bali about the same time as us, but we know that Millennium lost an engine, Oceans Free lost her engine and half her keel and rudder, Okiva was plagued by electrical and engine problems before running aground, we ran aground and mangled the extrusion on our roller furling, and lots of boat shredded sails. Every skipper agreed that it was at least equal to the most unpleasant sailing he/she had ever encountered outside of actual storms. As soon as we get our computer fixed, we'll have more details on the passage as well as our views on the things people warned us about in Indonesia - pirates, big ships, unlit fishing boats, and political activists who follow the Islamic faith. We'll also compare the performance of Okiva, an Islander Freeport 41 motorsailer, and Maverick, the upwind rocket, in heavy upwind going. People might find the results surprising."

Are we mistaken, but doesn't the passage from Bali to Singapore normally consist of mostly light air?

What's your resolution for the new year? Ours is to spend more time enjoying life through cruising.

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